3-alarm fire rips through Lafayette building, home to Chamber of Commerce

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LAFAYETTE, Calif. (KTVU)-- In the midst of the smoldering rubble, the sign Peacock Alley, somehow survived on the side of the old wooden building in Lafayette that some residents say was a part of the town's history.

Residents stopped by to look or take pictures as fire investigators and crews surveyed the wreckage for hot spots. Fire officials say the building housed at least eight businesses including an old-school  Italian restaurant called La Finestra.

The flames broke out just before midnight and continued through Wednesday morning.

Daylight showed the disaster. There was nothing left at 100 Lafayette Circle the building with some eight businesses.

"This is part of that old-school town that we all grew up with, so losing something that's been here for this long, it is heartbreaking," said Amy Peterson, one of the fire evacuees and a Lafayette native.

Ian Craig, a resident for more than 50 years helped build it.

"Both my brothers and I worked on this building. Probably in the late 70's," said Ian Craig another Lafayette resident.

For many locals, the La Finestra restaurant meant a home-style Italian meal and familiar faces.

"It was an old Italian restaurant in there that people have been coming to for years. Same old Italian waiter." said Clay Cahoon, a Lafayette resident and business owner.

Tony Lavino has worked as a waiter for 17 years and said he was stunned to see the building.

"I just looked at it for the first time. It's a shock," said Lavino. He got hugs and handshakes from some regulars.

"We wanted them to feel at home. It was like a big family so, I just feel sad for everyone though," said Lavino.

In January, a massive eucalyptus tree fell into La Finestra restaurant, also located at 100 Lafayette Circle, as a result of the winter storms.

The Lafayette Chamber of Commerce was another loss.

"The chamber of commerce is really one that was worried about their old records. I don't know what happened to, I'm sure they weren't all digital so 50 years or so of recording things, I hope it's ok with them...a lot of city history," said Cahoon.

For Jane Todd, the sight of her businesses sign, still intact and unburned was a small relief.

She remembers the history and early years of the building that was called Peacock Alley.

"There were peacocks that walked all over this alley and it was the first time I saw a peacock...and I always wanted to have my business in there,"
said Todd, who opened the Face First Skin Care Clinic.

"It's history. It's sad. I just wanted to come and say good-bye," said Todd.

The owner of La Finestra met with his employees at a nearby restaurant. One person said it was emotional, and they are hoping to reopen and stay in Lafayette.